Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused political opponents opposed to an initiative to place cameras in polling stations of trying “to steal the election.”
“It is no coincidence that Benny Gantz and [Blue and White’s Yair] Lapid oppose cameras, because they want the election to be stolen,” Netanyahu said, speaking to reporters on Friday in London, his remarks quoted by The Times of Israel.
“Placing cameras prevents stolen elections,” Netanyahu insisted, According to the prime minister, given the widespread prevalence of surveillance cameras in other areas of Israeli society, such as kindergartens, it was curious that “all of a sudden the one place where it is prevented is in the voting hall.”
The prime minister and his allies in the Knesset have been looking to push through a bill which would allow observers from Israel’s political parties to place cameras inside polling stations during legislative elections scheduled for later this month.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit marked his opposition to the proposal earlier this week, saying that so close to the vote, the measure would “harm the ability to properly hold election day.”
“The expected result is uncertainty, irregularities, deterrence of voters and problems with managing the voting and registering the votes,” Mandelblit said, while emphasising that there would be nothing to prevent the Knesset from working on an election camera bill at some future, post-election session.
Israel’s election officials earlier banned parties from plans to place cameras inside polling places, saying this was against Israel’s current laws. The prime minister’s Likud Party had already secretly equipped election officials in Arab-majority areas with body cameras during April’s elections to avoid alleged election fraud. Likud has accused Ra’am-Balad, one of the country’s pro-Arab parties, of engaging in voter fraud to earn it its 3.33 percent finish, which ensured it four seats in the current Knesset.
The proposal to bring cameras into other voting districts has been met with opposition from other parties, with the Labour-Gesher alliance warning that it was preparing to send its own activists to polling places to keep the peace and “hold back Netanyahu’s thugs.”
Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White, called Likud’s camera effort an attempt to “prepar[e] the ground to not accept or honour the results of the election,” and accused Netanyahu of “trying to delegitimise an important democratic process.”
Israelis will go to the polls on 17 September to elect a new government, with the vote being held after Netanyahu and Likud proved unable to form a ruling coalition after elections in April, falling one seat short of a 61 seat majority in the country’s 120-seat parliament. Recent polling shows Likud running neck and neck with Gantz’s Blue and White Party, although a similarly tight finish in April’s vote did not enable Blue and White to form a coalition amid support for Netanyahu from a bloc of parties including United Torah Judaism, Shas, and the Union of Right-Wing Parties.